It’s what gets us going in the morning and keeps us awake into the night. It is in countless foods and we even combine it with alcohol and aspirin. It’s caffeine. Research done by the National Coffee Association (yes, we have a National Coffee Association) shows that over half of American adults have at least one cup o’ joe a day. But is all this Joe a no-no?
In reality, caffeine is a licit wonder drug. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Caffeine keeps people alert by antagonizing the adenosine receptors. Drinking caffeine also feels good because it stimulates dopamine release, a neurotransmitter that gives us pleasure. And if it couldn’t get any better, caffeine also stimulates adrenaline release, which gives you that extra boost!
This release mechanism that caffeine initiates is the same initiated by cocaine and heroin.
There are a wide range of effects from caffeine. Most of us already know it increases attention and alertness while decreasing fatigue. But it does more than that. It lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It also increases your metabolism. These positive effects are felt if coffee drinkers do not have exceed 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine a day, or 2-4 cups of black coffee.
Conversely, caffeine is highly addictive. It can cause anxiety, increased vasoconstriction (which can temporarily relieve a headache), and hypertension. A mild tremor and insomnia may also result. Most of all, it stimulates your body when it normally would be at rest.
Old wives’ tales that caffeine stunts your growth are false. What is true, however, is that people, including adolescents, do not realize that caffeine is a drug, and a highly addictive one. During adolescence, young adults are developing habits that will stick with them for life. Due to high workloads, one of these habits is high caffeine intake. Not only coffee, but caffeine pills, energy drinks, and “energy shots.”
If you are trying to kick your caffeine addiction, going to rehab is not necessary. However, you shouldn’t just quit cold turkey. Kicking the habit too abruptly will subject one to many withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and irritability. Try to eliminate stress from your life. This will help you sleep better. Improve your diet, too. Cut out junk food and other sources of caffeine and sugars such as soda. Though this all seems like a nightmare, we were able to survive for millenniums, hunting and gathering without some morning cup of coffee. So that doesn’t mean you can’t do the same tomorrow.
Share your stories about if and why you drink caffeine, and if you believe you are addicted. Do you believe the benefits of caffeine outweigh the risks?
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